Ensure muscle health for baby boomers

FRESNO, Calif.

Muscle Health is among the newer Ensure shakes on store shelves. On the bottle and in ads, Ensure promises that it will "help rebuild muscle and strength naturally lost over time" with a trademarked formula called Revigor. What's Revigor? It's a source of HMB, a byproduct created when the body metabolizes the amino acid leucine. Some studies suggest that HMB can help you gain more lean muscle from strength training, especially if you're not that fit to begin with. But other studies haven't shown a benefit. And none of the studies that we've seen lasted long enough to be conclusive.

The bright-purple label recommends drinking two bottles a day. But with 250 calories in each 8-ounce bottle, that could be a problem, too. That's 500 extra calories that most people don't need in a day. And there are at least 22 grams of sugar in every bottle, too.

Muscle mass declines as people age, and regular strength training can help. But Consumer Reports says more research is needed to prove that the Revigor in Ensure Muscle Health provides any additional benefit. Unless you need the extra calories, you're probably better off skipping the shakes and focusing on regular exercise and a well-balanced diet instead.

If you're worried about muscle loss, the National Institute on Aging recommends strength exercises for all your major muscle groups at least twice a week for 30 minutes. And you don't have to be a bodybuilder to do the exercises. If you're a beginner, 1- or 2-pound weights are a good place to start.

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